Par Jolie Adam
“Jen, you’re going to be fine.” Larry’s comforting voice was threading the silence in her size-disabled room. He had been the first person she called once she mustered up enough words to speak. Immediately after leaving the Cefran studios, she was expecting the ground to swallow her up at any given moment. She was mortified and re-telling it to Larry didn’t make it any better. She excluded the part about bumping into Lola, trying to convince herself that it was probably a coincidence. She was a model, afterall and was probably shooting something there. Jen was still holding on to him like a melancholic child who refused to let go of his parent. Using his shirt as a pillow, she let her tears fall as she nuzzled her face in his chest, savouring the warmth and familiar scent of his arms as they enveloped her head.
“I can’t believe he embarrassed me like that. Why would he do that?” She asked between sobs. She was just fine when the job offer hadn’t even been an option, much less a fathomable thought. But he was the one who called her, who sought her out after the interview of her and Larry aired. He was the one who initiated this whole thing. Why would he do that just to turn her away when she came through? Was it a prank? Plain malice? Or was he just being sarcastic when he said she’d been great…Maybe it was his way of getting her back? All these questions, thoughts and hurtful concerns whizzed by one after the other in Jen’s head as she sniffled, signalling she was fresh out of tears. Maybe Larry was right. She had something that was more important than a revoked job proposition. She was healthy and carrying another being. Within months, she’d start a brand new chapter in her life and that was much more valuable to her than working for a company that obviously hired very sadistic people.
Larry rubbed her back gently trying to soothe her hurt. Once he left her place, he’d get to the bottom of it. He’d boycott Cefran Cable if he had to. If Jacques was really the asshole Jen portrayed him to be, he’d ask the interview for both him and his twin to be pulled from air. And that would be the last collaboration between Cefran and Les Twins. Thinking of ways to cheer her up, Larry thought perhaps this would be a good time to bring up marriage and depending on her answer, pop the question. He’d been planning to wait until this weekend at his parents’ wedding anniversary to propose but it bothered him to see Jen in such an distressed state.
“I know something that’ll make you feel better.” He said tentatively, gauging her reaction.
“Dark chocolate ice cream with waffles and strawberries and marshmallows.” She looked so cutesy in her misery. Larry found it hard to resist her when she was being so adorable. Actually, their entire relationship had been based on his inability to resist her.
“Is that what you want?” He confirmed, ready to go out and grab her a guilty pleasure if it’d help her mood.
“No. Forget the waffles and marshmallows – that’s celebratory. Strawberries, cherries, oreos on top. Now that’s a winner for losers.” She stated glumly.
He smiled at the knowledge of her indulgence, “Okay, let me go get it.”
“Not now. I don’t want to let you go.”
“Ok so you want me more than you want the ice cream?” He asked playfully, still trying to humour her and alter her mood for the positive.
“Of course,” Jen finally looked up at him, resting her chin on his chest. She was sure she looked terrible with smudged mascara and ruined makeup from all that crying. “I love you, Larry.”
The words penetrated every tough shell Larry had, the heavy armour he carried to protect himself from harm – emotional and physical –everything he had never believed in before Jen, and he felt the meaning behind them. He felt the same about her, satisfied just being in her company, content just holding her while she cried, sated when he made love to her, and complete when she said those words to him.
“I love you too Jen,” He smiled at her despite himself. He would’ve loved to be serious and smooth when saying it but the smirk evaded him before he could catch it. “Always.”
A huge grin was plastered on Jen’s face as she continued looking up at him. As long as Larry said those words to her, there would be no news in the world sour enough to permanently dampen her mood. She had her moment, she cried it out, was about to eat it out with some much-deserved sugary delicacy, and just like that she was over it. Jacques can take that job and shove it up his fucking pasty, flat ass, she thought as she got off Larry. As much as she wanted nothing more to just lie in his arms and rewind him saying those four words to her, her vanity carried over and she suddenly felt a little self-conscious. Besides soiling Larry’s shirt with her tears, she was certain her face looked a mess and wanted to do damage control.
Turning on the lights in the washroom, she was momentarily taken back at the blowfish looking back at her. Her face, especially her eyes was swollen from crying so much. Most of her makeup had been wiped off and she felt a small tinge of gratefulness for the fact that Larry was wearing a black shirt. She grabbed a makeup removing cloth and wiped off what was left of the beauty work she’d diligently done this morning. Before she was able to grab her second wipe, Larry was making his way out the door,
“I’m going to get the ice cream. Take a shower and relax. I’ll be back in 30 minutes. Text me if you want waffles too.” He yelled out and she smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Maybe she would have waffles and marshmallows after all. She had a great boyfriend and that was worth celebrating.
By the time she finished thoroughly removing the rest of the makeup, her face had slowly started going back to its normal size. Maybe now that her skin could breathe, it was aiding the swelling. She felt 65% better and showers always made her feel better so once she was done cleaning up, she’d be back to her cheerful self. Maybe even forget about her dreadful morning. With Larry coming back with her favourite guilty pleasure, they could spend the day in bed, looking out her window, falling in and out of sleep – maybe even sex if she could manage to look lively enough after crying her face off. Her mood was significantly better and she had her amazing, damn-near-perfect boyfriend to thank. Of course, she would never admit that to Larry – but she loved him and had a crush on him at the same time. The way he made her feel so many things with just one word… or better yet, one look. Having that kind of pull on someone should be illegal, or at least forbidden.
Turning on the hot water in the shower to gather some steam, Jen began undressing. Before jumping in the shower, she remembered to text Larry for the waffles and marshmallows in light of her brightened mood. Unfortunately, she saw that he’d left his phone on her bed table counter. Curiosity rose and she approached it warily. Touching the Iphone screen, she saw that it was locked and unwillingly thought of the digits that composed the pin. She had no reason to mistrust him and she always mistrusted everyone by default. Yet with Larry, oddly enough, her female instinct was calm and her suspicions tamed. Of all people, she shouldn’t have trusted Larry but she did. Despite him seducing her out of his brother’s grip, the drama with Lola, the beginning of their affair, she trusted him yet she advanced to type in the first digit of what she imagined might be his password. Just as she did, there was a knock at the door,
Guess he realized he forgot his phone, she drew her finger back from the screen silently willingly it to go dark so it didn’t seem suspicious when he picked it up. The last thing she needed was for Larry to be offended that she tried to hack his phone. That’s what you get for snooping, her conscience murmured snidely as she sat back to watch how things would unfold if Larry did find out Jen had tried to check his phone.
Grabbing her towel from the bathroom rack, she rushed to open the door. However, the person greeting her from the other side was not who she expected to see.
“Em?” She asked with furrowed brows showcasing her confusion.
Ayara was watching Lau file his clothes. He was setting them apart to make things easier for the maid to do his laundry. He figured since he was leaving on Thursday, he might as well get his clothes cleaned so he could return with a suitcase full of clean clothes. Even trimming clothes, he looked effortlessly gorgeous. Ayara stood against the door frame observing and admiring his lanky frame. He’d made this vacation one to remember and she wasn’t ready for it to end. She hated how weak she felt around him, but loved how she could bounce off his strength. He was resilient and there were plenty of other qualities of his she aspired to possess one day.
“How long have your parents been married?” She asked, trying to make conversation. Although if there was one thing she learned from him, it was the art of appreciating silence. The most meaningful moments they’d shared on this trip weren’t particularly filled with conversation but rather a glance, an approval, a subtle smile at the appropriate time, a hug, even a wink. Lau mastered the ability to display affection without even speaking. She remembered the time they’d been walking in Monaco, when the yacht stopped in one of the city’s ports; he had traced the length of her nose really quickly with his index finger, almost as if he was an artist admiring the symmetry of his sculpture. Or the time they were standing in front of a large abstract painting in the Museum of Vieux Monaco and he slid his arms around her waist while standing behind her. She’d forgotten all about the painting and stood there just staring at him, just so he’d remain behind her, holding her as if she was his woman.
“25 years. Long time.” He replied, still paying attention not to mix his gray shirt with his black clothing.
“That’s amazing. I hope for that one day too.” She said solemnly. Picking up on the tone of her voice, he turned his attention to her,
“You know, I didn’t think you were that beautiful when I first saw you. You were trying too hard. And I like to chase girls. I don’t like girls who chase me..” He said blatantly like two long-time friends who were being honest with each other. Ayara lowered her gaze at the criticism, she knew it was true. She’d pulled all the stops to get his attention, to get him to like her yet he continuously pulled away. “But now that I know you, I know this. You are beautiful, Ayara. You don’t need all this makeup, or all that attitude. You’re special, even without your fame and success and money. I like you. And I know you did all that stuff because you like me. But I would have liked you sooner if you had been real. Be real with me, and I’ll be real with you.” He continued. She realized he was right. The moment she let her guard down and stopped trying so hard, he had finally started reciprocating. Taking her shopping, that happy ending to the massage she was trying to give him, him reading to her in French as they spent the night gazing at the sunset, feeding her breakfast after a night of hardcore partying on the Cote D’azur.
She responded with a shy smile and the best rebuttal she could think of at the moment, “How do you know I like you?”
With a cocky grin, he replied,
“Come on. Even my enemies like me.” He approached her and laid a pristine kiss on her cheek but his gaze told her there was nothing innocent about his small display of affection. Returning to his clothes sprawled on the floor, he added calmly,
“You’re a sweet girl.”
“You’re a sweet guy.” She blushed.
“I know. But don’t tell nobody.”
She laughed at his tone that indicated he expected her to swear to secrecy even though he was being dramatic and playful.
“Come with me.”
“To my parents’ party.”
Ayara straightened her stance as if she expected him to withdraw his invitation or admit he was pranking her. She was so excited she felt like the night she got the phone call telling her she’d been signed to Universal Records. Her parents had told her at dinner as if it was the most casual thing and she spent the entire night dancing around her room and pretending she was singing in front of a vast audience.
“Are you going to answer me?” He said looking up at her with expectancy.
“Are you joking?”
“Why would I be joking?” He replied confused. Women’s train of thoughts were so hard to follow.
“Yeah, I would love to come. Will I be meeting your entire family?” She was already thinking of the outfit she’d wear, what was the best family-friendly hairdo?
“No, just my parents.” He retorted sarcastically but sensing she hadn’t picked up on it added, “Yes, everyone will be there. And I have a big family.”
“I can’t wait.” She admitted. The fact that he’d asked comforted her and reassured her that the past week they’d spent together, all the improvements they’d made in their friend-relation-shipwasn’t imaginary. He liked her. Finally. Feeling elated at the prospect of meeting his family, Ayara left Larry to his sorting duties and went off to plan her perfect meet-the-parents’ outfit.
“I thought you left.” Those were the only words Jen could think of. In the midst of all of the questions she’d been burning to ask him right after the tournament’s incident.
“I missed my flight. The next available flight is Wednesday.” He offered nothing more. His eyes were cold and vengeful – the result of roaming aimlessly around Paris for nearly two weeks, Jen suspected. She could see how the city of lights could be hated if seen and experienced from a certain perspective. If she hadn’t been introduced to Genevieve early on in her trip, she would have left a long time ago. It was the city of love, only if you were in love, or even lust. If not, it was a lonely, mean reminder that you were single in a sea of coupled up, loved up, amorous and extremely affectionate people in a romantic culture.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” He asked straightforwardly.
She shook her head, baffled as to how he could even ask her that, “Em, I can’t. I appreciate you for helping me deal with the news of my pregnancy but I’m with Larry now. Which means I’ll take his side no matter what.”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve stopped by so the least you can do is let me in.” Jen thought back and realized that he was probably right. Not about letting him in. About not being around. She’d spent the better part of last week, practically living at the Bourgeois home, catering to Larry and his sprained ankle and then this weekend out and about with him as well.
“Well, I just saw your little boyfriend leave so don’t mind if I let myself in.” He pushed the door to allow himself in and locked the door comfortably – a little too comfortably — as if it was something he did on a daily basis.
“Look, Larry’s going to be back any minute now so you should probably leave. I don’t have much to say to you. Actually I have nothing to say to you except for why? You pretend you’re my best friend and then attack the man I love. I opened up to you, maybe a little stupid on my part now that I think about it but still…what the fuck?”
“You string me along like I’m some kind of gay puppeteer, bringing me to every single café in Paris just to moan about some guy you’re fucking – oh, leaving out the part where you’re fucking his brother too? Brilliant! – after I flew all the way out here to see you. Do you take me for an idiot? I thought maybe you’d break down and just let me fuck you one more time…at least for old times’ sake. But no. All of the sudden, Miss Slut of The Year is being choosy.” Em spit back at her with such venom that she was taken back. In all the years she’d known him, she’d never seen a fraction of this part of him that was clearly present in her seemingly shrinking room. She wanted to jump out of her skin, jump out of the room, through the window. Anything. She started thinking of all the non-existent ways to exit her top-floor apartment.
“Em, I don’t know what the hell is going on. But this isn’t you.”
“Oh no, sweetheart. You see, law school teaches you how to be an asshole and do it so well that people are scared to sue you. Hell, people are scared to even complain about it. Now we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. Throw me a fucking break. I came all this way to see you. You owe me.”
“No. I don’t. I didn’t ask you to come. You offered.” She shrieked, losing her voice to fear.
“Whatever. Differences in opinions. Just drop that towel and it doesn’t have to get ugly. Come on.”
“I’m not joking Em, Larry is coming back and when he does – ”
“Better make it quick then.” He cut her off, brushing off her comment. That skinny twig had nothing on him. Years of playing football in high school and college meant he could take a tackle and throw a punch. He wasn’t scared of some pubescent dancer.
“Don’t do this.” She begged. Looking at his size, and the fact that there was nowhere in her tiny place to run or hide, she retorted to begging. Her day was seemingly getting worse.
“Don’t do what?” He bullied as he tugged the towel off her in one forceful pull. She stood naked before him, the olive skin on her breasts from her tan lines contrasting against the darker shade on the rest of her body. Her breasts were still perky and firm as he’d remembered, and often jerked off to some nights in college. Her body toned with no indication of a pregnancy. She shivered even though the shower was letting off a lot of steam. The sweltering heat was sipping out of the bathroom and taking over the apartment. The water was still running with force, the noise masking her whimpers. She prayed and prayed to all her lucky stars that Larry would leave the ice cream and come back. Please come home. Please come home. Please come home.
Larry was on the subway platform looking at the flashing sign that claimed the train would arrive in four minutes. Looking around, the subway was fairly empty at this time of the day with the majority of people having just arrived home for lunch. He mindlessly checked his watch and looked into the dark tunnel to see if there was a hint the train was coming back early. He was going to stop by the video store first and get some movies. There was no DVD player at Jen’s house so he’d recommend she have her ice cream and then grab a taxi to his house. Looking absentmindedly at the opposite platform facing him, he figured since she’d already showered, she could bring a set of clothes and sleep over at his house. His mother was turning into a bridezilla trying to plan this anniversary party on the weekend so she’d be occupied. No one would think twice seeing Jen at the house or notice that she hadn’t left – once he was in his room, no one bothered him. Most importantly, Laurent wasn’t home so he had nothing to worry about. They’d spend the afternoon watching English films – he knew she had a soft spot for old English classics and come dinner time, he’d order a pizza or Chinese food so they wouldn’t have to leave bed.
Out of habit, he dug his hands into his jeans noticing the absence of his phone.
“Merde!” (Shit!) He exclaimed with annoyance realizing he’d forgotten his phone. He was planning on getting her waffles anyways. Just because. But he was going to grab lunch on his way back and wasn’t sure what she was in the mood for. Just as he was leaving the platform to head back to Jen’s, he saw a small light at the end of the tunnel indicating the train was approaching.
“Just like that. Just how I like it.” Em moaned as Jen stroked his joystick against her will. He was standing behind her, looking down at her body and admiring the view. He’d unbuckled his pants once his erection proved too painful to restrain.
“I guess I changed my mind. No quickie. I want to enjoy this.” He said, his gaze drunk with sordid lust. “When I’m done with you, you’re going to forget all about those motherfuckers.”
Maybe Jen had been in France too long but the vulgarity of it all made her understand why the French thought Americans were classless and unrefined. Larry talked dirty to her too but she liked it when he did. She welcomed it. It turned her on immensely. On Em, she wanted to shove a bar of soap in her mouth. Hopefully, he’d swallow it and choke to death.
“You used to get wetter than water.” He whispered, his breath hot against her ear as his hands roamed freely on her naked body. She was standing still and felt his hand draw near her genitals which is when she snapped. She didn’t want anyone near there but Larry. Anyone else’s touch felt foreign, undesirable – it was a violation. As if it was finally dawning on her that he was going to rape her if she didn’t do anything, she elbowed him right in the nose. As Em went down in agony, looking like an idiot with his pants down, Jen grabbed the towel pooled at her feet and fumbled to open the door. When that didn’t work fast enough, she ran into the washroom and locked the door, hoping it would buy her enough time until Larry got back.
“You fucking bitch. I’m bleeding.” Em whined with a high nasal pitch. She hoped it hurt. For a moment there, she forgot she was an American. You don’t fuck with Americans. She was going to fight until she couldn’t anymore, and even then she’d use teeth, elbows, knees – whatever she could easily use to hurt him. Looking around the washroom for something –anything – that could be used as a weapon, her eyes landed on a pair of scissors. Picking them up, she held them against her like a shield. She wanted to hurt him, not kill him. That fucker wasn’t worth going to prison for.
“Alright, we can do the hard way!” Those were the last words she heard before the door slammed down with Sam behind it. She should’ve known this old apartment’s bathroom door wouldn’t stand a chance against a 6’2, muscular ex-football player. He’d knocked her down when the door fell on her as she was standing right behind it. Picking her up by the hair, she dropped the scissors, her hands fleeing to get her hair out of his firm grip. Once he released her hair, he stood her up by the arm and slapped her once across the face. She felt her cheeks burn even after his hand wasn’t on them, leading the way for a headache to occur.
“That was for the nose.” He said, “Now, this is for me.” Pushing her against the wall, he ripped the towel off once more and her hands automatically went to cover her modesty. This was no longer someone she knew, someone she could talk out of what he was going to do. The minute he slapped her, she knew he was capable of much more than that and sadly her conscience begged her to surrender. For her sake, for the sake of her baby. But her heart, her body screamed for her to fight back. Pinning her hands with ease behind her back with one hand, he used the other to turn her around. She heard his zipper go down amid the water still beating down in the shower right next to her. Everything was amplified in fear, she felt a frisson creep up her spine, the water sounded like a massive waterfall coming down, his moans as his hands caressed her ass, the sprain his other hand would leave on her wrists. She couldn’t move, couldn’t use her teeth, knees or elbows like she’d planned. So she resorted to the only prayer she knew, the only one she could think of. Please come home. Please come home. Please come home. Please God, if you believe in me, in my unborn child, please let him come home. The odds were unlikely. If calculations were right, he would be at the ice cream store right now, ordering her gluttonous delight, maybe even finally noticing the absence of his phone. Or maybe he’d notice that on the subway ride when looking for something to occupy him. Please come home.
Jen felt his flaccid member harden against her butt as he dry-humped her to arouse himself. He was rubbing it on her skin, teasing the openings and just when she thought he was about to enter, she heard the door unlock and breathed a silent sigh of relief. Thank you God. Thank you God. She wasn’t even religious but after this, she might just start going to church. Em released his hold on her hands to pull his pants up. If he was going to beat the daylight out of this punk, he didn’t want to tumble because of loose jeans. The faster he got this over with, the quicker he’d get what he came here for and the sooner he could get the hell out of this awful, overrated city. Maybe he’d even enjoy it more, fucking Jen in front of her black-and-blue boyfriend so they could both see each other as he showed this “dancer” how it was really done.
Larry’s gaze didn’t quite get to absorb the unkempt sight of the apartment before Em emerged from the bathroom, belt dangling from his jeans, his eyes telling a wicked tale and his face carrying a salacious grin. Larry’s thoughts jumped to the worst possibility as he screened the room for a sign of Jen. The bathroom down had been beaten down and there was Em just standing there looking like he’d done something irrevocable. The water running clouded his thoughts and worried him more. His anger escalated at the speed of light and he lurched at Em who tackled him back. Throwing rapid punches to Larry’s face, he unleashed all of his fury, frustration, annoy, all the unhealthy emotions he’d been carrying for the past few weeks. Larry guarded his face tightly with both forearms and in the beat between the time the punch was thrown and the time it actually reached his face, Larry bounced back with the force of an experienced, resilient boxer and pounded his fist into Em’s flesh at the same time Em’s punch landed on his cheek.
“Larry.” He heard Jen calling from the washroom as he continued fighting with the burly guy on top of him. He saw her coming out with a pair of scissors and swiftly positioning herself behind Em, grabbed his neck in a headlock. She brought the opened scissors right under his nose as if she was going to cut it off,
“Unless you want me to finish what I started with your ugly nose, I suggest you get the FUCK OUT OF HERE.” She spat the last words with conviction and anger. He rose slowly with his hands in the air motioning he wasn’t going to try anything else. When he rose enough for him to overpass her in height, she lowered the scissors to his back and poked forcefully. Enough to pierce the fabric of his shirt and slightly penetrate his skin.
Larry stood up and threw a last punch. Em wasn’t going to try anything now. The only way he’d overcome this team was with a gun. So he angrily exited the apartment, furious that he didn’t get to finish what he started.
“You okay?” Larry was frightened to ask anything more, uncertain if he wanted to know. He held her as she shook and sobbed in his arms once again.